A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
Easy Rider. It’s more than a movie. It’s a brand. It’s a brand in Dalat anyway. In fact it has become a brand all over the place in Vietnam.
Everywhere that there are tourists there are the obligatory signs touting tours to Halong Bay and Motorbike tours. “Easy Rider” is synonymous with motorbike tours. A lot of it’s aimed at backpackers. I had to endure a few episodes of over eager sellers. I’ve had to endure a few episodes of crass ignorant tourists. The only reason these tourism “products’ exist, the only reason the are copied ad infinitum is that previous wealthy tourists have asked for them.
Who knows if the first Easy Rider tour on the back of a motorbike somewhere in the central highlands was asked for by an american or dreamt up by a local? Who cares? It may as well be a chicken vs egg debate.
That the market is filled with persons eager to ‘cash in’ I can understand. That Lonely Planet et al spruik them I also understand. In fairness the guidebooks mostly try to explain that there are riders and there are riders. How to pick a safe one etc etc. You get to hear young men and women from the west haggling and arguing with the touts, you also get to hear their conversations in private as so many people seem to forget that they are not the only souls in the country that speak their language. Some bitch about the prices. (Someone else got it for less and the guidebook says it should cost ‘x’.) Now I’m bitching about them.
I understand why travelers actually think they are poor.
But they are not poor. They are on a limited budget. And they can go home. How many though have arrived in Vietnam (or wherever) on a long haul flight that cost more than a years wages for the vast majority of the population they are visiting.
I only ask for a little self-awareness.
But then the majority of the planet seems low on self awareness. Nonetheless I am sickened by the smug, self righteousness of people, people not that different to myself, complaining about other people trying to sell them the things that their predecessors bought, things that the traveling set have actually come here to see.
The reason the beautiful Hải Vân Mountain Pass is referred to as the “Top Gear Road” in Vietnam is because thats how the relatively cashed up paying customers refer to it.
Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “get with the programme”.
I’m on my little road with my little kids in tow and as such hiring 2 motorbikes and riding ourselves around with our kids on the back would be exciting but ultimately very stupid.
We could hire 4 motorbikes with riders. Yes, I would really enjoy watching my 8 year old on a disappear around a blind corner on the back of someone elses motorbike heading straight for a bus. That’s just normal procedure here in Vietnam. My son doesn’t possess the motorbike experience of an 8 month old Vietnamese child. These guys grow up on two wheels. With large parts of their family on the same two wheels. I would be even worse.
We are far more pedestrian. Literally.
My Dalat highlight was not in any guide book. It was just walking around the backstreets. There are tiny little lanes in behind the traffic choked streets even in this relatively new french designed hill station. They just buzz with life, all parts of if, and they smell as you would expect.
It’s in there that you bump into the people that work at something other than “front of house” tourist contact roles. It’s a sort of voyeurism of course. On the other hand, given that we are a mixed family of african and european stock, perhaps it was akin to the circus coming to town. Getting pointed at and getting laughed at and shouted at. It’s loud but its human. It’s the sound of music, Vietnamese TV, cards, kids, cooking and chaos. It’s the sound you hear when you get just a little away from the motorbikes.
It’s not intrepid. It’s low on adrenaline. It’s a very everyday, workaday experience that I shall miss more than most things here in Vietnam. Just pottering about the streets, exposing ourselves to the folk that are exposed to us. Trying to answer the questions of an 10 year old, trying to keep an 8 year old interested and trying to make sure their mother was not exposed to any rodents.